Salt of the Earth

Alberta Oil - - OBSERVER -

RE­DUCE COSTS, RE­DUCE EMIS­SIONS— that’s been the unof­fi­cial mantra of the oil patch in 2016. But it’s a quest that Neil Ca­marta, CEO of the Cal­gary-based Field Up­grad­ing, has been on for decades. As the name im­plies, Ca­marta’s com­pany builds up­graders that re­move im­pu­ri­ties like sul­fur and heavy me­tals from raw Al­berta bi­tu­men. But the catch is, Field Up­grad­ing ap­pears to have found a way to do that by us­ing lit­tle more than salt—sav­ing plenty of dol­lars and en­vi­ron­men­tal de­merit points in the process.

In June, the com­pany un­veiled its 10 b/d pi­lot plant north­east of Ed­mon­ton, where bi­tu­men is com­bined with molten sodium to ex­tract the non-petroleum im­pu­ri­ties. “If you just add sodium to heavy oil, magic hap­pens,” Ca­marta says. “The sodium takes the dirty out of ‘dirty oil.’” The dis­cov­ery was made not in Al­berta, but—fit­tingly—in Salt Lake City, Utah. That’s where Ca­marta had been send­ing hockey puck-sized sam­ples of Al­berta bi­tu­men to a team of chem­i­cal engi­neers who were work­ing on the sodium up­grad­ing tech­nol­ogy. When the process proved suc­cess­ful, Ca­marta bought the rights to it.

The Field Up­grad­ing pi­lot plant pro­duces no emis­sions of its own, how­ever it does re­quire elec­tric­ity. And while Ca­marta has al­ready scaled up the plant to 10 b/d from an ini­tial batch re­ac­tor “the size of an ice cream pail,” he al­ready has his sights set on pro­duc­ing 2,500 bar­rels of up­graded bi­tu­men daily. With an es­ti­mated $10-per-bar­rel oper­at­ing cost, the pi­lot plant doesn’t just con­trib­ute less green­house gas than a con­ven­tional up­grader, it also comes in at half the price.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.